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Think outside the tub

4 minute read

Those of you that are close to me know that meditation is a hot topic for me. It is a big part of my life. So here it is already: A blog about meditation.

But before I enlighten you, let me first attempt to explain to you what meditation is. Or better yet. Let me show you what meditation is. We will do a little exercise.

Make sure you’re sitting comfortably, close your eyes (at the end of this sentence, smartass…), and try not to think of anything for 60 seconds.

21…

22…

You’re still reading? I’m serious. Stop reading right now and don’t think of anything for one minute.

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And, how did that go? Any profound spiritual insights? My guess is not. Probably your mind was bursting with seemingly unrelated thoughts. And that makes sense, because what you just did is exactly what meditation is not.

So let’s try again. Close your eyes, but this time focus on your belly gently rising and falling with your breath. Just sit with yourself for a minute and let your attention effortlessly gravitate towards the feeling of your stomach. Whatever you do, do not try to get rid of thoughts. Accept them for what they are and return your attention back to your breath with a smile. 

And how was that? I hope you experienced that this is a very different practice than what we did before. 

Many people tell me they could never do meditation. “My mind is just too restless to sit down without thinking.” Of course it is! So is mine, and anybody else’s mind. If my mind was perfectly still I wouldn’t need to do meditation, would I?

Meditation is the practice of observing thoughts and sensations, both pleasant and unpleasant, without interfering or being swept away by them. It is a moment in the day where you make time to observe and get to know your own mind. Simply by being present.

“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the mindfulness movement

In meditation we sit down and don’t introduce any new distractions in our minds. This allows our mind to disentangle itself just a little bit. To look at the rising and falling of the treacherous sea that is our mind. To notice when the waves wash over us and to bring ourselves gently back to the surface.

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I think that water is a great metaphor for the way our minds work. Imagine your mind as a bathtub, and you sitting in this tub is your conscious self. Now say that you had a busy day with lots of moving around. The water in the tub will be moving around and be very restless. If you now sit still for a little bit to relax, you will see that the water doesn’t magically stop moving. It is still just as restless and will need some time to calm down.

In the start of this blog I asked you to forcefully push out any thoughts. This is like asking you to stop the water from moving by slamming your hands on the waves in the water. You can imagine that this will only create more disturbances in the tub.

Instead, we can choose to sit back and wait for the waves to calm down. This is more closely in analogy with the second exercise. Yes, the water is still moving around, but the disturbances in the tub will slowly subside as you simply wait and do nothing.

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At this point you might be thinking: “Why would I want to sit in this still tub?”. Only when the big waves make room for the little ones, we are able to see the smaller disturbances in the water. The recurring thoughts that we have unconsciously been experiencing for a lifetime. If we observe these smaller disturbances long enough we slowly learn to know ourselves. I’m talking about sitting down and finding out who we really are. Without judgment.

“Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and understanding how and why you think and feel the way you do, and getting a healthy sense of perspective in the process.”

Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace.com

There is nothing I would like more than to share in this experience with you. I hope this blog plants a little seed in your mind. All there is to meditation is to sit down and say ‘hi’ to your breath now and then.

5 thoughts on “Think outside the tub”

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  5. Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog!
    We are a team of volunteers and starting a
    new project in a community in the same niche.

    Your blog provided us useful information to work on.
    You have done a extraordinary job!

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